PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast's offense has been among the nation's best all year, and it's a big reason the No. 1 Bulldogs are headed to Kansas to play No. 2 Lackawanna in the NJCAA Football Championship this week.
Take a look at where Gulf Coast stands in the national rankings: ninth in rushing offense (206.4 yards), 12th in passing offense (249.4 yards) and fifth in total offense (460.3 yards per game). The Bulldogs are the 15th in scoring offense, third in time of possession, fourth in third-down conversions and first in first downs.
"It's balance," Gulf Coast coach Jack Wright said. "Being able to run the football when it matters, and being able to throw the ball when it matters. Being unpredictable in that sense makes defenses defend everything most of the time."
The national championship starts Thursday at 5 p.m. in Pittsburg, Kan. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network, and you can listen to the MGCCC radio broadcast on SuperTalk 103.1-FM and online at https://livestream.com/MGCCCBulldogs/events/8915122.
The offensive line has won the battle in the trenches this year to generate those gaudy offensive statistics. The group is led by All-NJCAA Region 23 center Cole Freeman (So., West Lauderdale/Collinsville) and a pair of All-MACJC South tackles in Maljon Joor (So., Callaway/Jackson) and Hayden Burton (So., Parklane Academy/Bogue Chitto).
"The offensive line has been excellent in the run game as far as creating space," said Wright.
Quarterback Chance Lovertich (So., Jackson Prep/Brandon) etched his name among the all-time leaders in MGCCC history in four categories this season. He's already broken the record for most yards gained rushing and passing, accounting for 2.738 yards to move past Clint Hatten's 2,639 in 2012. His 66.3 percent completion percentage is second only to his 70.8 percent mark last season, as is his five touchdown passes in a single game, just short of six from 2018. Lovertich would need five touchdown passes to tie Hatten's record for single-season touchdown passes at 29.
"We've got a really efficient quarterback who makes really good decisions," Wright said. "He's been able to make critical plays at critical times all year. More importantly, he's a guy who gets it to all those position groups in an efficient manner."
Running back Deondre House (Fr., Senatobia/Senatobia) leads the country by averaging 7.1 yards per carry. That's third in MGCCC history behind the 7.4 yards averaged by Joe Williams in 1968 and Eddie Collis in 1983. He's second in rushing yards with 671 to Austin Bolton (So., Poplarville/Poplarville), who has 671, and not far ahead of Omni Wells (So., Moss Point/Moss Point), who has 530. Shaun Anderson (So., Picayune/Picayune) has nearly 400 yards in total offense.
"We have a lot of depth," Wright said. "Having four running backs buy into the 'We Instead of Me' mentality has been big."
The receiving corps is led by Marquise Bridges (So., Petal/Brookhaven) with 39 catches for 720 yards, an 18.5-yard average. Jymetre Hester (Fr., Glades Central/Belle Glade Fla.) and Jalen Bracey (Fr., Murrah/Jackson) each cracked the 40-catch mark this season. In all, 14 players have caught passes.
"It's probably the most balanced receiving group I've ever coached," Wright said. "Any of those guys can do a lot of the same stuff. A couple of those guys are ahead statistically because they've stayed healthy from Day 1. That's why their numbers are a little better."
All those components add up to an offense that's hard to shut down.
"The balance of that group is what's really impressive," Wright said. "You're not able to just load up on one part of our offense or one person. You're going to have defend all parts of the field and all our personnel."
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